When David Broder died recently, one colleague after another praised the highly respected Washington Post political columnist for his approach to his profession.
Broder did not sit in an office sifting through news releases from politicians, exchanging text messages with "highly placed campaign sources."
What made Broder stand out was his willingness to go to Iowa or to slush through the snow in New Hampshire to talk to real voters and find out what they were thinking. That approach, which has become a rare commodity in today's journalism, provided Broder's writing with an authenticity that set him apart from his peers.
Broder was a throwback to an era when the beat reporter was firmly planted in the middle class, a true representative of the people who read his stories each morning.
In his approach to political reporting, Broder knew that it was impossible to get a complete picture of what was going on without having access, not just to the candidates, but to those who worked for them, those who were in the party hierarchy, those who were challenging the party hierarchy, and those who would play the most important role of all: the ones who would cast the ballots.
We could use a David Broder on the education beat.
While there are exceptions, the coverage of today's education is being colored by reporters who have never sat in a classroom at a public school, never interviewed a teacher, and consider their reporting to be balanced because they talked to politicians on both sides of an issue and sought a quote from a representative of the teachers union.
That's not reporting, that's stenography.
For reporters and columnists to keep referring to grandstanders like Michelle Rhee, Chris Christie, and Scott Walker as "courageous" because they are willing to take on the "firmly entrenched teachers' unions" is lazy reporting and that is being charitable.
How is it courageous to provide simplistic solutions to the complicated problems of education by attacking a straw man that has been steadily declining in public perception ever since the creation of No Child Left Behind?
How is it courageous to attack teachers who almost invariably have no means to fight back? How is it courageous to take a stand against public schools when your pockets are being lined by the likes of the Walton family, the Koch brothers, and Bill Gates?
The media pundits were quick to jump all over public schools after the premiere of Davis Guggenheim's "documentary" Waiting for Superman, with nearly all of them failing to mention that Guggenheim did not interview one public schoolteacher. He was just another courageous reformer.
While an increasingly susceptible media continues to latch on to these courageous reformers, truly courageous people are involved in the practice of education every day.
It takes far more courage to stand in front of a classroom of 30 children than it does to stand in front of a collection of fawning reporters and talk about what "thugs" teachers' union members are.
While the Chris Christies and Scott Walkers spend their days in meetings with people dressed in suits, many public school teachers spend their time with children who cannot afford decent clothing.
While these courageous reformers are wining and dining the business interests who are pushing the privatization of American education, I have children in my classroom who may not even receive a meal once they leave the school.
True courage does not come from attacking those who are least able to fend for themselves. The critics can talk all they want to about the powerful teachers' unions, but even with those unions, classroom teachers have unfairly been cast as the bogey man for all of society's problems.
True courage would involve making an effort to solve those problems without designating a convenient scapegoat. You don't solve the problems in education until you solve the problems in society.
As long as there are children who are poor, children who suffer from physical, mental, or sexual abuse, and children whose parents don't care, there will be serious problems in education and in this country.
What happens when the "courageous" reformers have fired all of the "bad" teachers and the problem persists?
If the media were doing their jobs, we would not be in this situation. Education is not just something that takes place behind schoolhouse doors. The education of the public as a whole is the responsibility of an aggressive, truth seeking media.
Education could use a David Broder.
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